NEW DELHI: Accusing the Congress of speaking in the voice of separatists and politicising the Army for "lowly political gains", the BJP today defended Army Chief Bipin Rawat's statement on tough action against locals hampering counter-militancy operations in Kashmir.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh, who hails from Jammu & Kashmir, attacked Congress leaders for criticising General Rawat's statement as he claimed that what the Army Chief said was not a warning but concern expressed by him over civilians' safety.
Addressing a press conference, he asked Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to make his stand clear on the comments of his party colleagues.
"It is appalling and a matter of concern, worry that the Congress is falling to this temptation of politicising the army chief's statement... This party can go to any extent for political benefits. It is speaking the voice of separatists for lowly political gains," he said.
Citing statements of Congress leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Sandeep Diskhit, Singh said these were quite unbecoming of a national party.
Defending General Rawat, the Union Minister said, "What the Army chief has said is not a warning but an expression of concern. He is worried that innocent people may be hit and become collateral damage (in anti-terrorist operation). He is saying that don't come in the line of fire," Singh said.
He also targeted the National Conference, the main opposition party in Kashmir, saying once out of power it adopted the jargon of separatist parties, something the Congress was also doing.
Yesterday, NC spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu dubbed the statement of the Army Chief as "tragic" and said the government, instead, should approach and engage with the youth of the militancy-hit Valley.
The Army chief's warning had come after four soldiers, including a Major, were killed in two separate encounters in Kashmir.
General Rawat had said security forces in Jammu and Kashmir were facing higher casualties due to the manner in which the locals were preventing them from conducting the operations and "at times even supporting the terrorists to escape".
The Union Minister claimed that Kashmiri youths had begun realising that they were misled by separatists and now wanted to be part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's developmental agenda.
Asked what action the Centre had taken against separatist parties and their leaders, Singh said it had been taking action from time to time but "everything could not be divulged publicly".